Back in 2010, Nucleus Films released “Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide”, a 3-disc DVD set that included the acclaimed documentary “Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape” from Jake West. Here, in 2014, West and Co return once again with the second part of the Video Nasties story, including a new documentary titled “Draconian Days”.
In the previous “Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape” film, we heard from a variety of people as we were told the story of the video nasty era, a time in Britain when home video exploded and censorship became rife with the introduction of the 1984 Video Recordings Act, with various films, many of them horror films, being removed from video shop retailers’ shelves and banned. The film showed the hysteria and media propaganda that was employed in order to paint a picture of how merely viewing a film that the BBFC had outlawed could bring about the “disintegration of society”. The film was excellent, and the accompanying discs in the set, featuring a vast array of trailers and clips of these “nasty” films was also thoroughly enjoyable.
Here, with “Draconian Days” we have a similar release. A documentary that is accompanied by two discs featuring clips and trailers, and again it is engaging and gives a nice rounded package of what the whole thing is about. The documentary, once more, is outstanding. Looking at the post-video-nasty era this time around, we see how the BBFC changed, how those changes were implemented, the effects that banning certain films had on the marketplace, the underground tape trading circuit that sprouted up in Britain during this time and how films became the scapegoat for instances of murder in Britain. It is interesting to see how the banning of Childs Play 3 following the killing of a young British child occurred, and how completely nonsensically the government and the British tabloid media pointed the finger at horror films. The film talks with and features a large amount of people, from James Ferman who was the head of the BBFC until 1999, Alex Chandon, David Hyman (BBFC), Nigel Wingrove, Marc Morris, and dozens more, who give insightful comments on the time in question.
I found the film fascinating and having grown up during this period, though too young to fully have experienced much of it, it was amazing to see how hysterical things became at times. People attempted to import VHS tapes of horror films, going to lengths that drug smugglers might today, only to have their homes raided and films confiscated and incinerated by the government. The sheer amount of money, time and effort that the British government, law enforcement and BBFC put into the banning and censorship of these films is astounding, and worrying too. I wondered, while watching this film, just how many real crimes, murder, rape, abuse, were committed while the police were out confiscating “Invasion of the Blood Farmers” from the home of a twenty-three year old guys’ bedroom in Manchester. It almost felt like I was watching a skit from a comedy program when a clip was shown of a policeman literally confiscating a poor guy’s VHS collection, and his VHS player, as he sat asking them “how long” it would take because he needed “to go to work”. Poor bugger.
The clips featuring people who have obviously never seen a horror film in their life (most of which were old footage from news programs), and possibly never even come across any type of negative imagery in general, declaring that those with an interest in the horror genre are “mentally ill” or “disturbed” is not so unusual, it’s something we see with each year that passes and every unconventional and individualistic concept is put under the microscope so that it can be blamed for things that should actually be looked into further. Like heavy metal and punk rock, horror films have taken the blame for so many things through the years, and this release highlights some of the high-profile moments during the 80’s and early 90’s in which that occurred.
The second and third disc in the set features the official additional 82 titles that were designated under “Section 3″ of the Obscene Publications Act by the Director of Public Prosecutions, with the full trailer as well as a newly shot featurette featuring journalists and academics discussing the history of each release. These films include Abducted (1973), Cannibals (1980), Deep Red (1975), Enter the Devil (1972), Graduation Day (1981), Last Horror Film (1982), Naked Fist (1981), Phantasm (1977), Suicide Cult (1977), Zombies Lake (1980) among many, many more.
The footage that is shown is eye-windeningly shocking at times, and the comments from the people involved is entirely captivating. It is just amazing that this happened, and not even that long ago. West and those who worked with him on this film have once again done a magnificent job at showing a period of time that needs to be remembered, after all, if we don’t remember these things, we are bound to see them happen again.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide – Part 2 – Draconian Days is available on DVD, now, and is limited to 6,666 copies Worldwide.